In William Shakespeare’s telling, a soothsayer gave warning to Julius Caesar: “Beware the Ides of March.”
Caesar had, in fact, been forewarned, but he did not take it seriously. On his way to the Senate on March 15, 44 B.C., Caesar passed by the seer and sneered, “Well, the Ides of March have come!” The seer responded, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone,”
When he arrived at the Senate, Caesar’s fellow senators attacked him. Twenty-three stab wounds later he was dead. The assassination ignited a civil war that ultimately ended the Roman Republic. By 40 B.C. Caesar’s nephew and understudy, Gaius Octavius, emerged as Rome’s first emperor, calling himself Augustus.
March 15, 44 B.C., the Ides, is a touchstone in Roman history.
Why don’t we call our tax day, April 15, the Ides? There is no Ides of April.
The Ides of March was an important day on the Roman calendar. Originally, March was the first month of the year and the Ides marked the first full moon and kicked off a week of religious celebrations. Later Roman calendars still were keyed to lunar cycles. The ides was calculated to be the 13th for most months, but the 15th in March, May, July, and October.
Julius Caesar’s assassination was not the only memorable Ides-of-March event.
- March 15, 1971 – CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,”
- March 15, 1917 – Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.